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By Virginia

Flood Insurance Gets Serious

News of Typhoon Haiyan’s devastation in the Philippines has flooding – and its catastrophic impact on life and property – on everyone’s mind. Here is some information you may not know about flooding in the United States:

Since insurance companies generally excluded flood damage from coverage, our insurance has been subsidized by the Federal government for the last 40-plus years. But having taken some HUGE hits in recent years – Superstorm Sandy, Hurricane Katrina – the government is now backing off.

Changes are still being worked out, but the Biggert-Waters Reform Act of 2012 basically requires the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) to raise insurance rates for “some older properties” in high-risk areas to reflect true flood risk. Here’s the official wording, “Key provisions of the legislation will require the NFIP to raise rates to reflect true flood risk, make the program more financially stable, and change how Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM) updates impact policyholders. The changes will mean premium rate increases for some—but not all—policyholders over time.”

Even in Seattle, some homeowners will see their insurance rates go way up. You can go to www.floodsmart.gov and type in your address to see what the government currently has determined is the flood risk of your area. All the Seattle addresses I typed in came back with a “moderate-to-low” risk profile as of today, so it sounds like they haven’t really finished mapping our area (Alki? Perkins Lane?). Talk to your insurance agent for more detailed information.

We don’t yet know exactly how things will change. But it does seem that the timing will be when a home changes hands, i.e. the new homeowner may have a much larger insurance premium than the seller had. And second homes (non-primary homes) will have their rates move at 25% annual increases at policy renewal until premiums reach the full-risk rates.

According to this NFIP map, in Washington State 29% of our flood insurance policies are subsidized, so this will in fact affect a great many people. “Many of the pre-FIRM (pre-1960’s) properties in high-risk areas do not meet current standards for construction and elevation, and they have been receiving subsidized rates that do not reflect their actual risk.”

By Virginia

Rent or Buy?

Renting makes total sense if you are here for a while, or want to check out the different neighborhoods before committing yourself. Buying in the Seattle area, according to the latest study by Zillow, makes sense if you are planning to stay in the home for at least 4 years.

Remember, when you sell your house or condo your total closing costs will usually be between 8% and 9% of the sales price. Closing costs include real estate commissions, excise tax (sales tax), title insurance for your buyer, and half of the cost of the escrow company that closes the transaction.

Let me know if you’d like a sample breakdown of what closing costs would be on your property.

By Virginia

IT’S STAGERPALOOZA TIME!

OPEN TO THE PUBLIC December 14 & 15 from 9:00 – 3:00

Staging and Design Network is having a 2-day sale at their Kirkland warehouse, open to the public. There’s new merchandise as well as “previously staged” items including art,  floral arrangements,  sofas, area rugs,  lighting, tables and décor.

Both new items and resale are available – on sale – and for a $60 annual membership fee you can even get wholesale prices.

Check it out! The warehouse is at 13621 NE 126th Pl., Suite 400 in Kirkland, phone number 425-272-4430

 

By Virginia

What’s wrong with this house?

Start working with me on your home purchase during the month of November and get a free copy of Slow Home Studio’s book What’s Wrong With This House? – A Practical Guide to Finding a Well-Designed, Sustainable Home.

The architect authors run a combination design studio/real estate firm in Calgary, Alberta, and have over 20 years teaching and researching at the University of Calgary.

I’m not going to send you to Calgary to buy a house, but you will be happy you took a good look at the practical, down-to-earth design advice that focuses on the substance of the way a house works, rather than on its superficial appearance.

If you’re new to buying houses or condos, download the “Steps to Buying” eBook for a good explanation of how to get from today to living in the new place!

 

By Virginia

Steps to Buying for First Time Home Buyers

The Steps to Buying guide is now a downloadable ebook. Topics inclue a quick intro to short sales & foreclosure properties, Earnest Money, Making an Offer, and more.

This is a great intro to home buying for people who have never done it before and need some info to get started. Get it here and share it with your friends!

Flood Insurance Gets Serious
Rent or Buy?
IT’S STAGERPALOOZA TIME!
What’s wrong with this house?
Steps to Buying for First Time Home Buyers